Saturday, 23 August 2014

The Calm Before the Storm

This is Bank Holiday Weekend in England, that is, Monday is a public holiday. In Scotland they will be at their desks as usual on Monday, having had their summer public holiday on 4th August.  The Scots are more sensible than the English in this matter, because late August is in fact pretty much autumn and the sight of cagoule clad families trudging glumly along a rain-swept beach trying hard to pretend that they are enjoying a wonderful summer seaside break becomes a little saddening after a few decades.

This picture of the bridges of Berwick upon Tweed is the same one I used in my very first post on this blog, over two years ago now. At that time the referendum on independence for Scotland seemed far in the future and not many people outside Scotland were taking much interest in the subject. It is now less than a month until the ‘indyref’ and nerves are wound increasingly taut. In Scotland lifelong friendships have been strained by differing voting intentions for the indyref and even here in Berwick where we don’t have a vote, we approach the subject very cautiously when talking to our Scottish friends. As September 18th hurtles towards us, thoughts of what the future might hold for us here on the border loom ever larger. So while we still can and it is still officially summer, please let us all just chillax for a bit.

The Tweed has been described as a great Scottish river that enters the sea in England.  It is comforting to watch every day the ceaseless flow of its waters and know that they answer to no politician and care not whether they are classified as being in England or in Scotland or as forming the border between the two. Every day the tides rise and fall exactly at the times printed in the handy booklet supplied by the local angling shop, according to the dictates of the moon and not of any human agency. Today, for example, high water was at 14.39 and low water will be at 20.38 and no latter-day King Knut can change that. 

 The herons stalk stoically up and down the mudbanks of the estuary at low tide, gazing fixedly into the water for a passing fish. The impudently mobile fish themselves create many bureaucratic headaches for the officers of the fisheries protection patrols who, even without full Scottish independence, have to follow rules about how far into the neighbouring authority’s waters they are allowed to pursue fishing malefactors. (They have the right of ‘hot pursuit’ but not to just hang around on the off-chance of spotting known villains with their illegal crab-pots down.) 

The swans swim serenely to and fro across the border and the good people at the Berwick Swan and Wildlife Trust care for them when they are injured on either side of it, as their motto says.

As we worry over the prospect of border controls becoming necessary in the future, and fret about the possibility of needing a different currency to go shopping in the next town up the road,  it makes me envy their freedom. In the words of the song, “birds fly over the rainbow, why oh why can’t I?” 


  1. The waves of preindyref tension can be felt on the far side of the Atlantic. It must be very intense in the Borderlands. But I think you're right to take your cue from the herons. Enjoy the last days of summer confident that the tides will bring fish on September 19th whatever the outcome of the vote.

  2. Thanks a lot for your interest and support, Barry.